I spent decades running as fast as I could, only to stop one day and find that no matter where I went nor how fast I ran, I could never hide from me nor could I ever outrun myself.
I ran for decades and for this very reason—I never wanted to feel the feelings that come with life on life’s terms. I never wanted to feel pain or understand desperation. I tried to turn this off to the best of my ability.
For decades, I tried to be numb—I wanted to be callous and tough. I wanted to be impenetrable and unaffected.
Instead, I was only hiding from the truth, which is that I was afraid. I am afraid to be vulnerable.
I am afraid to feel weak or defeated. Among all of these things—I am afraid to be unnoticed. I am afraid of the pain that comes with being disregarded or unimportant. All of these fears I felt are true and real.
I tried my best to hide them because I could never have anyone see this. I could never tell anyone or so much as dare to whisper about these things. Else, they’d be true and I would be vulnerable. I would be weak and an easy prey.
I could never tell anyone the obvious, which is that I hurt and I bleed. I fear and I rage. I love and I hate. I laugh and I cry, and furthermore, I mistake and confuse.
I ran from these things to no avail. Drugs only helped for the length of the high. Alcohol does the same—then I came down and fell to either the crash at the end of a drug binge or sunk to the swiveling bottom of a drastic hangover.
When there was no place else for me to run and no further for me to fall, I stopped, and all my fears came to light. Everything hit me at once. All my feelings; all my fears, all the resentments, the memories of discomfort, the regrets, and all of the things I tried so desperately to avoid—all of them came to me at once.
This is what I was afraid of—feeling everything I ran from with nothing to help me balance the scales.
After trying for so long to shut my emotional functions and distance myself from the daring or dangerous features of either love or heartbreak, I had no way to stop the flow of emotions.
My feelings hit like a tidal wave. The dam which held back the waters for as long as I could recall had finally broken and gave way. At last, I was able to feel; however, I could not stop the feelings which came at an overwhelming rate.
For too long I tried to hide—I tried to keep my lies from the light. But now the truth was out. The beams of truth were far too bright to deny. I was unable to return to the blind eye because of all things possible, it is impossible to regain ignorance once we have been educated. There is no returning to blindness nor is there ever an honest denial of truth.
I never wanted to feel this much. The one thing we are given that separates human from beast is the understanding of emotion. It was written by Mark Twain, “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”
We blush because we have an understanding of self-consciousness—we blush because we know the difference between right and wrong. We know about embarrassment. We know about humiliation. Man blushes because he needs to. Man weeps—he laughs and he screams. We are this animal. Above all, I am this animal, and when faced with the truth, I fell to my knees. I looked upwards as if to address God the Father, Himself, and I asked him, “Why?” I waited for Him to answer. I sat there, weeping, but God never showed. He never said a word.
I tend look too deeply now. I see things in people; same as I see things in me, which has given me a good sense of perception. I see people for who they are and often without explanation, I find that I understand them. I understand fear. I understand the past and the reasons to hide from the light of truth. I understand the anticipation of unexpected or oncoming pain and the anxiety that comes before the threats of change. I know about the withdrawal that is not only limited to addiction or alcoholism, but includes any and all forms of temporary escape.
Sometimes I receive messages from people that I have never met before. They tell me I’m brave, which is funny because I don’t feel brave. They tell me about themselves and ask me to write about their story. They tell me about their life or what happened to it. And I want to turn away. I want to turn this off and forget about them but the sense in me is drawn to it like a moth to flame. I can’t look away. Perhaps this is because I know what it feels like to be disregarded. I know how it feels to be desperate and open up—only to be led astray or abandoned.
I was sent a message by a woman who I later grew to have great respect for. She explained about her childhood. She told me about the intrusion of a grown man dealt to the innocence of her, a young girl that never deserved to be hurt like this. As well, she detailed the abuse of an alcoholic mother. The woman told me what they did to her. After reading the message—my eyes welled with tears because I felt it. I felt all of it.
I could literally see what happened to her as a little girl. I could see her as a child, hiding beneath her bed in case, “He” comes in. I could see her as a little girl, playing with her dolls in a closet, explaining to each of them during a private tea time how they all needed to be quiet so no one would wake up, “Mommy.”
Of all people that were supposed to love this woman most, the most important of them cared for her the least. This hurt me. This hurt because I understood. I couldn’t explain how and I couldn’t tell you why—I can only say that I understood.
This leads me to now. After reading about a friend that lost their father, I find myself overwhelmed with feelings. I’d like to turn away. I’d like to turn this off, but I can’t . . . so I might as well write about it.
I share this story because this is what changed my life. This was my crossroad. I could have continued as I was or change and become someone new. I chose to change because of this pivotal point in my life. I was young and freshly sober. I was standing near a curtain that sectioned my father’s hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit. It was Christmas Eve and the unit in Hempstead General Hospital was somewhat quiet, somewhat dim because of the late hour at night, and the somewhat twinkling with the few scattered Christmas lights that were hung throughout the nurse’s station.
I was not sure what to say. So much had happened between us before this moment. So many things were said and the idea of redemption between The Old Man and me was something I never thought could happen.
He looked old and weak. This man was once the strongest man I knew. He was capable of anything. If there was a problem, The Old Man knew how to solve it. He knew how to fix anything and everything. The Old Man always knew what to do or say. He always ate everything on his plate. He worked lived hard and worked harder. There was no nonsense to him—no pretense whatsoever. The Old Man was as real as they come. Only, he and I could never seem to get along. There was always tension. There was no pleasing him, nor could he please me. Between the both of us, together, neither he nor I would budge.
I had thought to myself that maybe it would be better if I could go in his place. It made sense to me. I believed The Old Man’s life meant more than mine. The Old Man had more to live for. I was not yet sold on the idea of sobriety. I was sickly with scars on my body and demons whispering on my shoulder.
Having come to this decision, I made a deal with God before heading up to the Intensive Care Unit. Once more, God chose not to answer. I tried to reason with God. I asked to go in The Old Man’s place.
“No one’ll miss me,” I said.
I told God, “No one cares if I go.”
“Take me instead.”
I stood at the foot of The Old Man’s bed and watched him. The Old Man was staring off like he was lost in thought. He smiled at me. It was not the smile he used to have. This smile was a bit more tired. His skin was gray. I noticed his face had aged at least two decades since the time I saw him last.
This was the first time I saw death on its way. This was also the first time I understood mortality—I understood that life is not permanent, and those in our life are only temporary fixtures. For the first time, I realized that no matter what happened between The Old Man and me; no matter what was said or how bad the fights may have been, I really didn’t want him to die. Not now. Not when I had the chance to do better. I was clean for a few months. I could be his son again—even if for a little while, and he could be my father.
I approached The Old Man as he lay on the hospital bed. Machines were tied to his body—beeping and monitoring his heart. I wanted him to speak to me, yet at the same time, I was afraid to hear the sound of his voice. I was afraid to hear the lifelessness enter the conversation. Worse, I was afraid my deal with God was about to fall through. I asked for some more time with The Old Man, and if you asked me then, I would have told you that God had forsaken me.
“Whadaya say, Pop?”
“What’s doin, kid?”
I began to enter a conversation that I am sure is not limited to me or us. We talked for a while. He was telling me about what happened and what he went through. I told him about life on The Farm and what I was doing up in the mountains.
“You look good,” he said.
I interrupted The Old Man and asked, “Can I ask you a question, Pop?”
“You remember how you always told me that there’s nothing worse than a liar?”
“That’s right,” said The Old Man. “There’s nothing worse than a liar.”
“So you would never lie to me then, right?”
“Never,” promised The Old Man.
“Okay,” I said.
“Then I’m going to ask you a question and I need you to tell me the answer.”
I told him, “I’m just going to ask you if you’re going to be okay. And then you say, ‘Yes’ because if you say, ‘Yes’ then I know you’ll be okay because you would never lie to me.”
I suppose I looked a little boy at this time. My eyes were watered with tears and my voice broken with emotion—I cried as I asked The Old Man, “Are you gonna be okay?”
“I’m gonna be okay, kid.”
“Trust me,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere!”
The Old Man passed a few days after. I thought about the deal I made with God. I thought about how God let me down. Then I remembered one of the last things The Old Man said to me.
He told me, “Son, I want you to take care of your mother. I want to stay like you are now.” This was his way of telling me to stay clean and sober.
“I’m proud of you,” he said.
“I’ve always been proud of you. It just hurt me to see you killing yourself like that. But I love you son. I will always love you.”
Had this not happened, I don’t think I would have decided to become sober. I would have never chosen to be better. I would have been the same as I was before the intervention.
I thought of my deal with God and how I asked to go in my Old Man’s place. I thought about the Bible and how it says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever shall believeth in him shall not perish but have the light of life.”
I thought of this and it came to me. I believe with all my heart, The Old Man worked out a deal with God. I truly believe this. I believe that my father so loved his son that he gave his own life so I could have mine because had he not had passed; I would never have understood what it means to live.
I do not believe that at the hour of our death, we think of our resentment. I believe we think about the love we have and how pointless it is to argue.
And somewhere—somewhere I know my father smiles proudly at me.
Same as your father does with you . . .